circa 1980’s The Bay Area
As the first morning rays outlined the sky of San Francisco Bay, a distraught young man sat on the beach watching the tide. As he stared at the pulsating gray waves, he seemed so sad, so lost. Deep within his mind, he wished the tide would wash away his memories, those melancholic memories of one whom he deeply loved but could never have.
Sand covered him up to his knees. As his fingers drifted aimlessly through the sand, snatches from his childhood filled his mind. The first ten years of his life had an intimate connection with the beach and water. The fact that it had been a French beach and the Atlantic Ocean instead of San Francisco Bay did not matter to him.
He could still hear his mother calling to him. Her lovely voice made him feel safe and happy.
“Samuel Neuville Taylor, it is time for lunch . . . The beach will be there when you are finished. Your father does not have much time. He needs to leave for the base . . . Samuel Taylor, are you paying attention to your mother?” Her voice slowly gave way to the increasing roar of the morning waves.
How I wish that I could return to those simple days, he mused. Life wasn’t so complicated. It is hard for me to imagine that two weeks ago I found the sunrise, the beach and the waves to be my best companions. Now they appear strange . . . unfriendly . . . alien . . .
Samuel picked up a handful of sand and glared at it for several minutes. Standing up, he flung the sand ferociously at the ocean but saw it fall to the beach again in front of him.
Looking about him, he thought, it was like this two weeks ago. I had come down to the beach to watch the beginning of a new day. My ambition was to capture it in my mind. Later, I planned to put it on canvas . . . I did not expect my life to be totally changed by what happened. I remember it so vividly as if it was only this morning.
Samuel began to relive the experiences in his mind:
Two weeks previous.
Standing to his feet, Samuel brushed the sand from his blue jeans and white pullover shirt and walked toward the building resting on a hill which overlooked the Bay. When he reached the Golden Cowrie Restaurant, a waiter greeted him.
“Ah! Mr. Taylor, you are late this morning.”
“True, I was detained by inspiration.”
The waiter smiled, “Your special coffee is waiting for you at your table. It is the most popular beverage in the house.”
“Indeed! My mother would be pleased to hear that. She found that three-fourths black coffee and one-fourth chocolate with a teaspoon of cinnamon to be an irresistible mixture.”
“She has a rare talent.”
“True, true.” Samuel proceeded to the deck where his table was. Around it, he had his canvas, oils and easel.
As he poured himself a cup of Neuville’s French coffee, he glanced down at the sidewalk. To Samuel’s complete astonishment and joy, he beheld the most beautiful young lady that he had ever seen. He could not allow this moment of destiny to go uncontested.
“Mademoiselle,” he called to her.
Looking up from the sidewalk below the deck, she smiled. Her radiance absorbed his attention. Without being fully aware of his words, he invited her to join him.
As soon as she stood before him in her yellow sunbonnet, white cotton dress and white shoes, he fell in love with her. Her fluffy red hair, enchanting green eyes and delicate form made his heart leap like a gush of ocean spray with tidal force.
“I’m Samuel Taylor,” he said as he jumped to his feet. He held a chair out at the table for her.
She smiled and replied, “I am Rachel Harrison.”
After she sat down, he stated to her, “Rachel is Hebrew for ‘a lamb’.” To himself, he thought, she is certainly as lovely as a baby lamb, delicate, soft, fresh and innocent.
“I never knew that.”
“What’s that?” He asked as he came out of his rapture.
“My name . . . a lamb . . . ”
“Oh! Yes . . . Please forgive me.”
“That is quite all right,” she smiled at his apparent embarrassment.
He poured her a cup of his coffee. Nervously, he handed it to her.
Tasting it, she said, “This is delicious. What do you call it?”
“What? Oh! Neuville’s French coffee, named for my mother.”
“Neuville is a French name.”
“Yes, it is. I’m half French.”
“I see. Were you born in France?”
“Yes. My father was with military intelligence during the War. He was later reassigned to France during the Marshall Plan where he met my mother, Marie Neuville, who worked in French military intelligence.”
Your childhood must have been exciting.”
“A typical French childhood, military childhood.”
“I would find that hard to believe about your ‘typical’ childhood,” she stated as she assessed the man before her. His coaled black hair and intense blue eyes, combined with his Bohemian attire, made him charming, definitely charming.
“Now, Mademoiselle Harrison, tell me about yourself.”
“There’s not too much to tell . . . I am five-three, twenty-three years of age and delightfully single.”
At that Samuel laughed. “Bold,” he asserted.
“No, Sir, just candid. You were wondering, weren’t you?”
“True, I was . . . Do you think me impertinent when I tell you, I find you enthralling, utterly enthralling.”
“Why?” She seemed puzzled, yet amused.
“I can’t explain it. It is as if I have known you for a long time, perhaps forever, yet all I know is what I see and what you have said.”
“What do you see, Samuel Taylor?”
“A delicate rose, filled with elegance, exploding with life . . . life touched only by the morning dew.”
“A lovely metaphor . . . I appreciate the comment greatly, but as an artist, you know that appearances can be deceiving.”
“Correct, but in your case there is no word sufficient to express your rare beauty. You seem more like a fable, a fairytale, a dream, a vision . . . ”
“Please! You are causing me to blush.”
“It must be my French blood with some Kentucky moonshine from my father’s side.”
She laughed. “Your father is from Kentucky?”
“Born and raised in a little coal hamlet called Ravenna. Heard of it?”
She shook her head no as the sea breeze caressed her hair. She laughed again.
Her laugh is as perfect as she, he thought. I have found a treasure that I do not want to lose. I must not lose it.
“I have been told that French blood and a bit of Kentucky moonshine drive men mad with passion when they behold the woman of their dreams.” She grinned mischievously.
“That is true, Mademoiselle,” he smiled.
Smiling she asked, “What time do you have?”
“It’s eight thirty-eight.”
“I wish, I could continue this conversation, but I have an errand that must be done before ten.”
“Please! The morning is young . . . I have a favor to ask you.”
“What is that?”
“I would like to paint your portrait.”
She looked at him for several moments before she replied, “I would be honored but . . . ”
“Please. No buts.” He placed his right hand on hers. He felt it tremble.
Anxiety seemed to be flooding her face when suddenly she said, “I’ll agree on one condition.”
“You name the condition.”
“You must promise me that you will never sell that portrait to anyone, no matter what the consequences may be,” she insisted emphatically.
“I promise. I wouldn’t dream of selling it.”
“When do you want to start?”
“Immediately . . . The fog is rising, and it will make a beautiful backdrop.”
“It will,” she said as she looked about her at the ashen mists floating above the land and the Bay. “Just like a dream,” she spoke softly to herself.
“What did you say?”
“Oh! I was trying to remember something,” Rachel responded.
“I have completely forgotten why I came here today.”
“That’s simple, Rachel. You came to meet me,” he smiled.
Rachel laughed, but inside she knew that his words were true. She had come in search of Samuel Neuville Taylor, but she could not recall the reason why. It troubled her.
During the day they took breaks to walk on the beach, to eat and to talk. All during this time, Samuel learned little about Rachel’s background. She gracefully changed the subject when it came to her. Near sunset he brushed the last curve of her face on the canvas.
“Would you care to see it?”
“Not yet . . . I will wait for the appropriate time . . . I must be going.”
“Rachel, please stay and have dinner with me.”
“I wish, I could, but I must leave before sunset.” She stood and looked at the sun. Turning toward Samuel, she gently kissed him on the right cheek.
“When will I see you again?”
“At the appropriate time.” There was a note of sadness in her voice. As he gazed into her lovely green eyes, their image became forever locked in his memory.
As she turned and walked swiftly away, Samuel watched her vanish in the growing twilight shadows. He felt a sense of lost as if he knew that Rachel Harrison would never enter his life again.
To be continued…
G. D. Williams © 2011